Other than the fact that the Mohajirs have had the major contribution in the development of Karachi, the city by itself is of great significance for being the economic hub of the country with a non-stop influx of people from across the country into the city. In order to retain its national importance, Karachi should have been taken as a ‘National City’ because of being the country’s financial capital. However, both the centre and the province have always been making the most of the city as per their own agenda, since Karachi alone generates 60 percent to 70 percent of the national revenue and around 80 percent to 90 percent of the provincial revenue. In addition to that, the quota system, based on urban-rural divide, is blatantly misused as any Tom, Dick and Harry can easily have Karachi’s domicile.
Things have come full circle for the MQM and we are now back to square one.
The emergence of Mohajir politics was the desperate necessity of time, which is still continuing and alive today. This suggests the Mohajir politics will keep playing its role in the days to come. In the past, the demography allowed us to take the risk in the name of Mohajir activism, putting all our eggs in one basket. In its initial period, the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) did some good work and emerged as a well-organised political force fighting for a determined cause. Despite being formed on ethnic and regional lines, it had a political appeal to youth from middle-class, secular, urban and educated backgrounds, a salient feature never previously found in conventional politics of the country.
Fearing the nationwide rise of the MQM now enjoying huge popularity in the youth, the corridors of powers then decided to cut the MQM down to size and clip its wings before it could further mobilise the youth of other ethnicities and provinces, since such a paradigm shift was totally against the vested interests of the chosen few that have been ruling the roost in Pakistan since its creation.
The Punjabi Pakhtun Ittehad (PPI) was launched in Karachi merely as a counter-move to flatten the curve of the fast-spreading Mohajir activism. However, as time passed by, the PPI phenomenon fizzled out and we just kept ignoring such political moves pitted against the MQM. Given the fact that the MQM has never had its acceptance in the corridors of power, the Karachi city as well as the Mohajirs as being synonymous to each other, have always been on the back burner, deprived of the status and rights they rightly deserve.
Do you think that the MQM had a field day when General Pervez Musharraf was in power?
There is no second opinion about the fact that it was the era of General Pervez Musharraf when the MQM was given a considerable role, but unfortunately the party lost the rare opportunity of bringing in basic reforms to abolish the quota system, introduce the much-needed land reforms and to pave the way for just distribution of resources and a fair system of taxation.
In fact, that was the moment to provide constitutional protection to the local government as done in countries like India and Germany, but we missed that chance. On the contrary, we capitalised on the provisional powers and authority, both of which we had in plenty during the mayorship of Mustafa Kamal. We mistakenly regarded that era as the end of the world as if the honeymoon would last forever.
Do you have any regrets for launching the Mohajir politics?
As a community, we have no regrets for launching the Mohajir politics. However, my only regret is that the rest of the country’s ethnicities, communities and the ruling elite neither understood the significance of Karachi, nor did they acknowledge the role being played by the Mohajir community in the development and progress of Pakistan. More’s the pity, the ruling elite always took us as their competitor and thus never allowed us to have as much political voice in the mainstream. Looking introspectively, we are also to blame for our mistakes.
The downfall of the MQM can frankly be attributed to 50 percent by default and 50 percent by design. The downfall started in 2008, but it became quite apparent in 2013, but we were still not able to see our political decline. Then came the disastrous 2016 when some anti-Pakistan slogans were raised and we had to separate ourselves from the party’s supremo to protect the rest of the MQM from the inevitable wrath. In spite of that, the faults within the party were so grave that even I was not accepted as the party leader and shown the door by the vested interest since I wanted to steer the MQM back towards the progressive and peaceful path once ruled by the enlightened and educated youth of the middle-class.
Currently, I am running a group named Organisation Restoration Committee (ORC), bringing in a new lot of young people. Now, we have to be wise and intelligent enough and the word ‘Mohajir’ has to be used as far as we need to identify ourselves. However, in the world of politics, it has to be an all-inclusive urban-based politics comprising and representing all ethnicities and communities living in Karachi, including Mohajir, Pakhtuns, Sindhis and the rest. This has been my approach and in fact Mustafa Kamal’s Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) is also working along the same lines. Though Kamal has totally omitted the word ‘Mohajir’, I still own it.
I firmly believe that Karachi belongs to all Pakistanis irrespective of their language or ethnicity and the city’s long-festering issues must be effectively addressed, be it its correct population count in the census or be it just allocation of revenue resources. A fair census is vital since otherwise we will not only be undercounted, but underrepresented and underfunded. In that case, there will be too little to be shared by too many. Things have come full circle for the MQM and we are now back to square one. In fact, we have reached back to the point from where we started our journey.
When Gen. Pervez Musharraf was in power, we actually lost the opportunity to push our agenda of basic reforms forward. At that opportune time, the local legislative list of 148-B should have been added to Article 148-A to establish the concept of third-tier democracy in the country, devolving power and resources to lower levels of government. Despite our omissions and commissions, it does not mean that the Mohajir politics has not come to an end. Wearing their identity on their sleeves, Mohajirs must now do mainstream urban politics in cities like Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Mirpur Khas, Nawabshah, etc., without trespassing the sensitivity or belittling the respect of other communities.
Mohajirs need to play their role under a larger umbrella now and that too under the leadership of senior politicians from the urban areas who must prepare and nurture young people to carry the mission forward. I believe the next mayor and deputy mayor of Karachi must be the young 35-year-old son and daughter of the city. Similarly, all councils must comprise at least 65 percent members of less than 40 years of age. In short, the guiding slogan will now be: ‘Own Karachi, Save Karachi, Make Karachi.’
Do you think that Mohajirs are now suffering from a leadership crisis?
I openly admit the fact that there is a leadership crisis in Mohajirs, but, we must see who could show us true leadership, which is able to cement and bind us together. It is now a reality that there is no Altaf Hussain sahib left in the MQM and now it is up to the state, the judiciary and the government to handle his case, which is beyond the ambit of the Mohajirs. The moment when I parted ways with Altaf Hussain sahib, about 10,000 thousand people were arrested and the entire party was branded anti-Pakistan and it could have been even banned. If that would have happened, all MQM workers and supporters would have been fragmented and scattered in pieces all over the place.
However, if there remains a single political platform operating under the same flag and election symbol, there could be a chance to revive the MQM. In place of leadership crisis, there is in fact a vacuum of leadership in the MQM and whichever leadership is available, sanity should prevail all around.
Are there any chances of the reunion of different factions of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement?
If Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui is willing to stand by me and I become the leader of the MQM as per the current party structure, I and Khalid Maqbool, along with Ishratul Ibad because of his acceptance and credibility, could be in a better position to get the pieces together and rally a big support around them. Then within the next two years, the intra-party elections must be held and the next party structure should have 65 percent of youth, while remaining 35 percent will comprise seniors like us who will patronise and guide the young lot to reach a shared goal.
Amidst the current scenario minus Altaf Hussain, whoever leads the MQM must work to revive it. I am even ready to work with and under Khalid Maqbool’s leadership and for the last two years I have been saying this vociferously. For the past one year, Khalid Maqbool has been showing his willingness to visit my house and meet me personally. As long as I make an understanding with him, I will share with him my road map and will know and understand his plan. If my reunion with the party will help in serving the greater cause, then it is worth doing. The credibility, acceptability and regaining the confidence of the people will come through collective wisdom and nothing else.
Despite being a few miles away from each other, what has been stopping both you and Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui to meet?
I have no answer. However, I am ever ready to meet and talk with him. My willingness to cooperate should not be taken as my weakness, as it fairly shows my long-term vision and the comprehension of the present situation. People are also looking to us and want the scattered factions of the MQM to unite together. In this regard, it will not be difficult to talk and take Mustafa Kamal into confidence if I and Khalid bhai are able to apprehend ground realities and agree on a common agenda, we can move forward. Even if different factions of the party cannot be united under the MQM’s umbrella, then we can at least work together for the same cause by launching a kind of urban movement for the betterment of the city.
What are your future plans?
Working for the MQM is of course my first choice. Otherwise, I will be forced to form a separate alliance, e.g. Sindh United Council or something in similar lines. Using the new platform, I will try to unite the disgruntled elements of the PML-N, the PPP and the rest of political parties operating in Karachi. For instance, Syed Zafar Abbass of the Jafaria Disaster Management Cell (JDC), Rizwan Jaffar of the Youth Parliament and some young workers of the Saylani Welfare Trust may join me, while all supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in Karachi are disgruntled with their party and are ready to stand by me under my leadership. Therefore, I have a choice, but I don’t want to opt for it.
Despite its shortcomings, the MQM still has a considerable vote bank in areas such as Korangi, Orangi Town, Liaquatabad and New Karachi. Why should I ignore these four areas? If the MQM is able to secure 4 lakh votes, then I alone will also win the equal number of votes and the rest of the votes would go to Mustafa Kamal’s PSP, which will ultimately divide the Mohajir vote bank as it has already happened in the previous elections. PTI’s supporters are now also looking towards a better alternative. In fact, we all have our following and should work together to build a collective leadership and devolve it further to the young generation. As things currently stand, the people of Karachi are in despair and despondent and we must rise to the occasion to get them out of the prevailing gloom.
Since the Jamaat-e-Islami is also raising its voice for the betterment and uplift of Karachi, why don’t you collaborate with them in this regard?
I am willing to work not only with the Jamaat-e-Islami, but with all major stakeholders of the city. I have also proposed a 4-point agenda to Rawalpindi as well as Islamabad. Rawalpindi came back to me to understand that agenda, which is called ‘Shadow Karachi Transformation Plan.’ My 4-point agenda is parallel to the proposal that was given by Asad Omar a few years back. In fact, there should be a common agenda followed by all the parties of Karachi. It is not only that I am trying to bring all scattered factions of the MQM together, but also trying to grow it further and make the MQM think beyond itself by coordinating with other political stakeholders of the city, including the Jamaat-e-Islami, the PML-N, the PTI and the PPP as well. We recently celebrated the ‘Mohajir Culture Day’ and I also heard that PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also announced to celebrate the ‘Mohajir Culture Day,’ which is a positive thing and the right way to look forward.
For the development of Karachi, we are ready to work with the PPP as well as with the senior leadership of other political parties showing a sense of joint ownership to overdue projects, such as K-IV water project, revival of circular railway and revamp of sewerage and garbage collection systems. Working under the Karachi Development Commission under Article 149 (4), these 4 major projects need 12,00 billion to 16,00 billion rupees within a 4-year period. We are not in favour of handing over Karachi under the federal control that will lead to a fight between big elephants of the centre and the province and since we are just the grass we will be trampled.
The development agenda should better be run in the joint ownership of the city’s stakeholders. Other than political representatives, the commission must also comprise one representative from Barelvi and Shia communities each, some six to seven businessmen, builders and traders, two urban planners and one representative from the judiciary too. If the proposed 25-member commission is legislated by the National Assembly and the Senate for a period of 5 years and is duly implemented, the revamped city will be handed over to the new mayor who can be from any party and will be safe from the allegations of corruption and any sort of leg pulling.
Karachi cannot afford infighting between the political parties, but there is a vacuum and currently there is no party in Karachi that may claim majority. There is an indication that both the civilian government and the military establishment are now feeling that the time has arrived to fill the vacuum in Karachi by focusing on its development and progress.
Among the Karachiites, the sense of deprivation and alienation is now touching its limits and the city looks helpless and hapless in spite of the rise and fall of the MQM. If truth be told:
Leave a Reply